Hello from Saudi Arabia! I just flew Saudia’s new 777-300ER first class product for the 11 hour flight from New York to Riyadh. I booked this using Chase Ultimate Rewards points that I transferred to Korean Air SkyPass. Saudia releases a ton of first class award availability, so it’s a near guarantee that just about any flight will have first class award availability (and we’re not just talking one seat, but rather four to seven seats). A roundtrip award ticket between the US and Middle East costs 160,00 SkyPass miles.
I’m not going to lie, I was going into this flight with low expectations given my past experiences on Saudia, but wow, was I impressed. Saudia first class was phenomenal. I’ll have a full trip report soon, but in the meantime will do my typical “10 pictures” post.
Saudia’s new 777-300ER first class cabin consists of 12 seats, in a 1-2-1 configuration.
The suites are fully enclosed, and are very similar to those you’ll find on Garuda Indonesia, as well as a bunch of other airlines. The seat finishes are beautiful, in my opinion, though I do wish the seats had a bit more padding. That being said, the plane was brand new, and in immaculate condition. It even still had the new plane smell.
It’s surprising that Saudia has 12 of these suites on their 777, given that they never seem to go out full. On this flight there was only one other passenger in first class.
There were great amenities, including Porsche Design pajamas and amenity kits.
The amenity kit had Acca Kappa products — very nice! There was even another sleep kit for later on, which had an aroma stick (whatever that is) and foot cream (please don’t tell me you’re supposed to use that on a plane?).
First class passengers also receive free wifi. Unfortunately Saudia uses OnAir, which I find has among the slowest speeds, so it wasn’t all that useful.
What really impressed me about the flight, though, was the service. Taking care of first class was Lejla from Bosnia, Hanane from Morocco, and Chef Ali from Bahrain (and actually from all over the world, as he has lived everywhere).
The other first class passenger was observing Ramadan, and given the hours of the flight, it basically meant they were taking care of just me from dinner and breakfast service (since I was eating while it was light outside and sleeping while it was dark outside).
Speaking of which, I don’t think I’ve ever been on a flight with so many people observing Ramadan. Most of the other passengers weren’t eating for the first and last quarter of the flight (since it was light outside), and had two meals back to back in the middle of the flight, while it was dark outside. They even announced over the PA when the sun had set, so that people could break their fast.
Anyway, the crew was absolutely phenomenal. Their attention to detail was top notch, and they were genuinely attentive and engaging. The menu looked fantastic, though Chef Ali really helped with customizing it. There are a few airlines with onboard chefs, though Saudia offers among the most customization. I could have just about everything prepared how I wanted.
I decided to have a five course meal shortly after takeoff. To start I had a chicken and mushroom cream soup. Delicious, and what great presentation!
Next up was caviar. While Saudia’s caviar portions are small, they do offer Petrossian caviar, which is impressive.
Next up was a mezze.
For the main course I had prawns. He gave me a bunch of choices for how I wanted them prepared, but I left it to him, and he didn’t disappoint.
Lastly for dessert I chose the “chocolate lover’s” option, which was so good.
What a fantastic meal, in terms of the quality of the food, service, and customizability.
However, Saudia is a dry airline, which is something many will care about. I know this sounds crazy (or maybe I’m trying to make the best of the situation), but in a way it was almost a good thing. When I fly an airline with amazing champagne I’m always tempted to have a couple of glasses too many. Meanwhile on Saudia I didn’t wake up feeling hungover. They also had a mocktail list, and I tried a couple of them. They were quite nice, including the mint mojito.
I got a solid five hours of sleep on the flight. My biggest complaint about Saudia’s new first class is the bedding. They’ve invested so much in the new cabins, but then just have a thin sheet they place on your seat for turndown service, and a basic blanket that you’d expect in a mediocre business class product. C’mon, Saudia, add a real duvet and mattress pad to this otherwise great product.
Suffice to say that Saudia greatly exceeded my expectations. I’ll have a much more detailed trip report soon, but Saudia’s new first class cabins are gorgeous, the crew I had on this sector was phenomenal (though I’m not sure if that’s the exception or the norm in first class), the food and onboard chef concept were great, and the amenities were solid as well.
I’m sure the experience was also partly great because there was just one other passenger, and we had a crew of three taking care of us. However, that almost seems to be the norm for Saudia, based on the flights I’ve looked at.